Shakes' dream team

2015-01-04 15:00

Here are the 23 Bafana players who will carry the nation’s hopes of Afcon glory in Equatorial Guinea later this month.

Darren Keet

Age: 25

Club: KV Kortrijk, Belgium

Caps: 3

Showed composure when filling the gloves of Senzo Meyiwa in the final two Afcon qualifiers. Keet was the difference between Bafana and Nigeria, and helped deny the Super Eagles a shot at defending their title.

Brilliant Khuzwayo

Age: 24

Club: Kaizer Chiefs

Caps: 1

Has done brilliantly for Chiefs when filling in for the injured Itumeleng Khune and has since made the number one jersey his own. He will be a good deputy for Keet – if he does not overtake him.

Jackson Mabokgwane

Age: 26

Club: Mpumalanga Black Aces

Caps: 1

The short goalkeeper surprised many in his maiden outing against Côte d’Ivoire in the Nelson Mandela Challenge and commanded his defence and area well. His Afcon experience will help further his career.

Eric Mathoho

Age: 24

Club: Kaizer Chiefs

Caps: 13

“Tower” has been superb at the heart of the Bafana defence and is expected to continue from where he left off in the qualifiers. He reads the game well and uses his height to effectively deal with aerial bombardment.

Rivaldo Coetzee

Age: 18

Club: Ajax Cape Town

Caps: 3

Thrown into the deep end against Congo-Brazzaville to become the youngest player to don the Bafana colours, Coetzee is one for the future, even if he does not feature prominently in Equatorial Guinea.

Thulani Hlatshwayo

Age: 25

Club: Bidvest Wits

Caps: 10

Hardman Hlatshwayo returns to the team after missing the final two Afcon qualifiers through suspension. The versatile Wits stalwart is able to operate equally effectively at right back as well as more centrally.

Siyabonga Nhlapo

Age: 26

Club: Bidvest Wits

Caps: 1

Slotted in well at right back when

the regulars were not available against Côte d’Ivoire in the Nelson Mandela Challenge. He can also play on the right wing and will give the team attacking options.

Anele Ngcongca

Age: 27

Club: Racing Genk, Belgium

Caps: 37

Goes into the tournament as the most experienced defender; and his leadership qualities will have to come to the fore to help his more inexperienced team-mates. He has been used at centre back and right back.

Patrick Phungwayo

Age: 26

Club: Orlando Pirates

Caps: 1

If his club performances are anything to go by, he should be an automatic choice at left back, despite his lack of international experience. He hardly puts a foot wrong and is effective going forward.

Thabo Matlaba

Age: 27

Club: Orlando Pirates

Caps: 12

Back in the team after missing three games due to injury. Although he has not featured much for his club, he’s still a valuable asset for the national team. He will have to fight hard to land a starting berth.

Andile Jali

Age: 24

Club: KV Oostende, Belgium

Caps: 19

The former Pirates midfielder is expected to shrug off the knee injury that saw him miss his club’s last game. He has established himself as a vital cog at the heart of the midfield alongside Dean Furman.

Dean Furman

Age: 26

Club: Doncaster Rovers, England

Caps: 24

Handed the captain’s armband for the last two qualifiers, Furman has been in superb form and is expected to play a leading role in Equatorial Guinea.

Oupa Manyisa

Age: 26

Club: Orlando Pirates

Caps: 17

His work rate might have dropped at club level, but he is still capable of rising to the occasion. He has Champions League experience, which should help him adjust to the erratic conditions in west Africa.

Mandla Masango

Age: 25

Club: Kaizer Chiefs

Caps: 5

The midfielder has shown a lot of potential this season after finally grabbing his chance at Chiefs. He also played well for Bafana in the qualifiers.

Thamsanqa Sangweni

Age: 25

Club: Chippa United

Caps: 1

Captained the team to victory over the Elephants in November, thus earning his stripes, even though he did not play in the qualifiers.

Themba Zwane

Age: 25

Club: Mamelodi Sundowns

Caps: 5

Zwane has been used sparingly in

the qualifiers but has the potential to claim a starting spot due to his relentless work rate. Afcon will be a prime opportunity for him to shine.

Bongani Zungu

Age: 22

Club: Mamelodi Sundowns

Caps: 7

Another player who forced his way into the team after impressing in the friendly against Côte d’Ivoire. The Sundowns man can change the game with one magic touch.

Reneilwe Letsholonyane

Age: 32

Club: Kaizer Chiefs

Caps: 51

The oldest member of the squad has been brilliant at club level. Despite getting his marching orders in the last game against Nigeria, the midfield technician has proven his worth.

Thuso Phala

Age: 28

Club: SuperSport United

Caps: 13

Has never featured under Shakes, but his club form earned him a place in the team. He is capable of using his pace effectively and will be a handful for opposition defenders.

Sibusiso Vilakazi

Age: 25

Club: Bidvest Wits

Caps: 7

The reigning Premier Soccer League player of the year has settled well into the Bafana jersey and the attacking playmaker will be instrumental in unlocking opposition defences.

Bernard Parker

Age: 28

Club: Kaizer Chiefs

Caps: 68

He might not have featured

in the qualifiers as he is recovering from an ankle injury and is still struggling to find form, but he is the most experienced member of the team.

Bongani Ndulula

Age: 25

Club: AmaZulu

Caps: 5

It is high time “Drogba” proves his critics wrong and repays the faith shown in him after some poor displays in the qualifiers. He won’t get too many more chances.

Tokelo Rantie

Age: 24

Club: AFC Bournemouth, England

Caps: 24

Has recovered from the shoulder injury that kept him out of action for more than a month. He was Bafana’s best player in the qualifiers, netting four goals.

Ajax Amsterdam midifielder Thulani Serero’s non-inclusion in the final Bafana Afcon squad might have hogged the news headlines, but Timothy Molobistill have faith in the selected team

Goalkeepers

These are the best available goalkeepers the country has at the moment and Mashaba would not have struggled to pick the trio.

The three glovesmen might not possess enough international experience as they have a combined five caps but they have a point to prove in Equatorial Guinea.

Defenders

This is another department which was easy to pick as most of the selected defenders did duty in the qualifiers.

In fact the technical team has the luxury of having three players who could play at both the right back and centre back positions. Siyabonga Nhlapo is one such versatile player in the team as he can play as a full-back or on the right wing.

The battle for a starting berth on the left full back will be between Orlando Pirates duo of Patrick Phungwayo and Thabo Matlaba.

It would be interesting to see who, between Anele Ngcongca, Rivaldo Coetzee and Thulani Hlatshwayo, will partner Eric Mathoho in the heart of defence.

Midfielders

While a lot of consideration must have been done to pick midfielders, some players chose themselves. Andile Jali and Dean Furman are sure starters in the team in the heart of the centre but it is on the flanks where the technical team will have a lot to ponder.

The team comprises of a lot of ball players who will have to use their skill and pace to unlock the opponents defence.

Only three players – Thuso Phala, Bongani Zungu and Thamsanqa Sangweni – were not involved in the qualifiers and they were picked based on their club form.

Strikers

Bernard Parker has been rewarded for his good display for Kaizer Chiefs and his experience will come handy in the tournament. He should be able to complement Tokelo Rantie’s pace upfront.

Bongani Ndulula will have a chance of silencing his critics once and for all in the tournament as he has been found wanting in the qualifiers despite contributing two goals against Sudan and Congo-Brazzaville.

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